Skip to main content

Anti-LGBT organising and its transnational dynamics: The case of the Balkans

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ANTILGBT (Anti-LGBT organising and its transnational dynamics: The case of the Balkans)

Reporting period: 2016-09-01 to 2018-08-31

Starting from the early 2010s Europe has seen an increasing mobilisation against the changes that would bring about greater emancipation of LGBTQ people, such as marriage equality. This mobilisation appeared in the countries which have already broadened the scope of LGBTQ rights, such as France, Germany, and Spain, as well as in the states which have been less prone to make such changes, such as Poland and Croatia. For example, in France, the movement called La manif pour tous (Protest is for everybody) drew hundreds of thousands to the streets of Paris and other French cities during 2012 and 2013 to protest against gender neutral marriage. At the same time, in the countries such as Slovenia, Croatia, Slovakia, and, most recently, Romania, the referendums against same-sex marriages have been initiated. The presence of shared visual appearance and discursive repertoire in different national contexts, accompanied by the joint international events, such as annual World Congress of Families, suggests the presence of transnational exchanges and alliances between the actors from Europe, U.S. and Russia.

This research project starts from the premise that active resistance to LGBTQ rights represents an example of anti-emancipatory practice, which prevents the improvement of life conditions for citizens whose life styles differ from the dominant norms of gender and sexuality. It is based on the conviction that to effectively address these challenges, it is necessary to gain a better understanding of the rhetoric, strategies, and the ways this mobilisation operates at the intersection of transnational and national scales. The overall aim of this project is to contribute to this endeavour by providing an in-depth analysis of the anti-LGBTQ mobilisation and its transnational dimension in the new countries of South East Europe, namely, Croatia and Serbia, where resistance to LGBTQ rights has been particularly strong and, so far, largely underexplored. The research has focused on four particular questions: 1) What kind of rhetoric and strategies have been implemented by anti-LGBTQ actors in Croatia and Serbia?; 2) How this mobilisation affects the existing regimes of liberal democracy; 3) What kind of international networks can be traced in relation to this mobilisation?; and 4) In what ways and to what extent this transnational anti-LGBTQ mobilisation both reflects and informs the structural shifts in contemporary geopolitics?
The implementation of the research project included three phases. In the first phase, the comprehensive review of the relevant literature was carried out. The review included the growing body of literature on the mobilisation against sexual and gender equality in Europe, as well as studies of the rise of right-wing populisms in Europe and the theoretical literature on nationalism and the concept of democracy. In the second phase, the empirical research of the anti-LGBTQ mobilisation in Croatia and Serbia with the specific focus on the transnational dimension of this mobilisation has been conducted. The research drew on three different sets of qualitative data: publicly available textual and visual materials, observation of 2017 World Congress of Families, and informal interviews with informed observers of anti-LGBTQ mobilization. The third phase of the project consisted of data processing and analysis, and of presenting the findings in scholarly articles.

Direct outcomes of the project include four scholarly articles, three of which are forthcoming in the academic journals and relevant edited volumes, while one more is in preparation. Two articles address the central place of populist rhetoric in the anti-LGBTQ mobilisation in Croatia. They provide an analysis of the ways in which populism has been employed in this context and discuss the social and political effects of this interweaving of populism and heterosexism. The third article analyses the emergence of political homophobia in Serbia in the light of EU conditionality and monitoring, which increasingly includes rights of sexual minorities. Finally, one of the main outcomes of the project is the article that links the transnational anti-LGBTQ mobilisation with the post-Cold War geopolitical transformations and unsettling of the West/East binary.

In addition to four scholarly articles, the results of the project include a book review of Joan W. Scott’s Sex and Secularism published in Redescriptions: Political Thought, Conceptual History and Feminist Theory (Vol, 21(1)), as well as co-authored proposal for the special issue on redefining transnational solidarities. In addition to authoring scholarly publications, the results of the research have also been disseminated through oral presentations in various workshops, conferences, and public talks, as well as through media appearance in Finland, addressing in this way both scholarly and non-academic audience.
This project contributes to the existing studies in two important ways. On the one hand, the research shows the close interplay between the rise of right-wing populism and anti-LGBTQ mobilisation in Europe. Although an appeal to “the people” against the structures of power and dominant values represents one of the central mobilising discourses in anti-LGBTQ movements, their political activities have rarely been recognised as a form of populist mobilisation. By revealing the ways in which populist rhetoric and activities stand in the centre of anti-LGBTQ mobilisation in Croatia, this research brings important new insights about the functioning and larger socio-political effects of this mobilisation.

At the same time, while the previous research in this area points out the exchanges and mutual support between the actors from Europe, U.S. and Russia, this project pushes the debates further by accounting for the underlying logic that allows the formation of these rather unlikely alliances that cut across the West/East divide inherited from the Cold War period. This research shows that the clue for these puzzling alliances lies in the role of Christianity and whiteness as shared features of the actors, but also as underlying concepts, that, together with the idea of heteronormativity and naturalised gender binary, underpin the new civilizational imaginary emerging in the context of this transnational mobilisation. It shows that this new imaginary nurtures Islamophobia and anti-immigration sentiments and promotes the idea of white European Christian civilisation that cuts across the old Cold War East/West divide. In this context, as this project shows, the hetero-morality and naturalised gender binary serve as both key values and means of re-defining geopolitical power-relations and securing the perpetuation of the nation/civilisation and its racial/ethnic purity.

The insights brought by this project significantly broaden our understanding of the ways in which anti-LGBTQ mobilisation operates at both national and transnational levels. They were intended to help the progressive actors and policy makers in finding more effective and inclusionary ways of confronting this anti-emancipatory politics.
Giving talk on anti-LGBTQ mobilisation in Europe
Budapest Family Summit 2017